Let’s play pretend… Imagine that you had a great week of eating well, exercising, and feeling good. It’s Friday night – dinner out and possibly a movie are in the cards. Your intentions are good. You’re going to keep it clean and if anything, maybe have a drink with dinner. At the restaurant everything on the menu looks great and even though your plan was grilled steak and broccoli the cheeseburger and fries special looks a little too good to pass up. In fact you’re pretty sure you can hear the Heinz ketchup bottle on the table screaming at you – “ORDER THE FRIES”. It’s just one meal so what the heck, you spring for burger and fries and throw in a milkshake for good measure. Now that was GOOD – we’re talking the stuff dreams are made of – and now you are STUFFED. Off to the theatre to catch the 9:00 pm show. You walk in, and even though you are uncomfortably full you can’t help but be tempted by the scent of buttery popcorn. In fact, you actually feel like you NEED some… And so the weekend continues. Sunday night rolls around and you basically feel awful. The weekend tasted great, but now you are dealing with a massive “food hangover” and more guilt than a death-row inmate. Why did this happen? How did the cravings that you so vigilantly fought off all week manage to run you over like a freight train? Why do you feel like you want/NEED certain foods? How did the cookies, ice cream, pizza, potato chips, beer, etc. find out your name and why can’t they stop calling it??
Cravings – we all have them. If someone tells you that they NEVER crave anything they are lying like a rug… There is good news though; the longer we fight off/avoid certain foods – sugar, carbohydrates, overly salty foods, etc. and the healthier we become – the fewer and less powerful the cravings will be. But at some point, for one reason or another, everyone is tempted. And why have you never once (or VERY rarely) had a sudden craving for a big plate of broccoli (unless maybe it’s covered with cheese…)? There are actually three classes of craving triggers. Yep, three – because just one wouldn’t be enough… So which of the three triggers are pulling you toward your cravings most often??
#1.) Biological Triggers
These are the signals that your body sends you and usually mean that something is out of balance. For example, if your serotonin or blood sugar levels get low or if you are in a state of adrenal fatigue it is likely that you will experience more and stronger cravings. Additionally, if you are dehydrated, short on sleep or lacking a certain nutrient you are more likely to hear the OREO’s calling your name. Here are a few specific examples from moderate to extreme:
Bread, bagels, pasta, cookies – if you are craving sugary, starchy food it may mean that your blood sugar and/or serotonin levels are low.
Candy, sweet stuff – how did you sleep last night?? Your body probably needs sleep more than it needs sugar…
Chocolate – try some magnesium. If it’s truly a biological craving, you might be lacking in this nutrient!
Ice, chalk, paper, or dirt – craving non-food items (yes, this does happen) signals extreme nutrient deficiencies. The name for this condition is pica.
#2.) Emotional Triggers
Do you eat when you’re stressed, upset, happy, sad, feeling guilty or maybe, all of the above??? If you answered yes then you are an emotional eater. Uncovering the reason that the Reese’s reach out to you is important in fending off these cravings. Here are a few things to consider:
Are you stressed out? Stress cravings can occur up to 24 hours post stress response!! So even if you feel calm and collected when the cookies call stress could still be the culprit in your craving.
Feeling guilty? This one is a biggie!! So, you had the fries and now you’re thinking, I blew it and figure you might as well just keep going and eat all of the foods that you usually don’t indulge in.
Eating by association: When you were growing up did your parents give you a certain food when you were sad, upset, sick, hurt, or as a reward? Do you associate certain foods with happiness and/or celebrations? These feelings may be triggers for your feedings…
#3.) External Triggers
Finally and most commonly are the ‘external’ triggers. These range from obvious to obscure: walking into a movie theater and smelling popcorn, seeing a commercial on TV for a juicy cheeseburger or a picture of an ice cream sundae in a magazine, looking at the clock and realizing that it’s noon, hearing the ding of the microwave, watching others eat, and the list goes on. There are SO many cues for us to eat and they just keep multiplying!!
TV, internet, magazine ads, billboards, restaurant signs and fronts – these are all MAJOR cues that we are exposed to nearly every second of every day. We are so ‘connected’ these days that exposure to the media and its messages is a fact of life.
Eating by the clock – we are trained from a young age that we need to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Often we have times associated with these meals and whether we are hungry or not, we eat. This happens with snacks too – think back to grade school. What did you do when you got home every day??
Smells, sounds and the behavior of others – the scent of fresh baked bread, French fries, or popcorn, hearing the microwave ding or people crunching/chewing, and seeing others eat are all things that make us feel hungry or leave us wanting a certain food.
Now that you know the possible reasons why certain foods seem to be on a first name basis with you it’s your job to identify your major triggers and be aware of the role these foods are playing in your life. Above all things food should not rule your life. It is there to provide the energy and nutrients we need to live, it should be enjoyed but should not be your only enjoyment. Next up we’ll talk about methods for dealing with cravings because they shouldn’t make you CRAZY!!!